Strong trading at pork processors Cranswick

Cranswick, the leading producer of pigmeat, bacon, sausages and sandwiches delighted the stock market with a robust trading statement for the three-month period to end December.

Sales rose by a sizzling 31% to 200m. One-third of this was contributed by subsidiary Bowes of Norfolk, bought by Cranswick last summer. The pet food business was sold last year and, stripping this out, the organic growth delivered by Cranswick was 17%, 14% of which was provided by the Bowes of Norfolk purchase, now named Cranswick Country Foods Norfolk. Sales of fresh pork rose by 70%, bacon sales rose by 61%, with sales of sausages up by 21%, cooked meats up by 17% and Continental products up by 9%. Sandwich sales recovered lost ground, rising by 16%.

Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef, has also chosen Cranswick as his partner for Jamie's branded food range. The company is to make all the meat and pasta for Oliver's high-quality brands of fresh pork joints, pork steaks, marinated ribs and bacon along with a special children's sausage range. They will go hand-in-hand with 'artisan' Italian pasta and will hit the food retailing sector in the spring.

Cranswick is beefing up its manufacturing division with new abattoirs and is increasing its sausage and bacon capacity. It has also invested in high-grade packing plants. Cranswick's current share price is seen as undervaluing the business in the City.

Tesco extends promo

Tesco is to continue its double Clubcard points promotion for the foreseeable future. This will intensify pressure on its rivals. Asda will be the most affected, as its market share slipped in the three months to 24 January, due to a big rise in sales in December by Tesco.

Tesco is sending out 120m worth of money-off vouchers to its 14m Clubcard holders and is introducing an iPhone app that turns the phone into an electronic Clubcard.

Ocado's may flotation

Ocado, the online food retailer, is planning to come to the stock market in May, with a likely price tag of around 1bn. Ocado was set up by former Goldman Sachs bankers and Goldman Sachs has an equity stake in the business.

Ocado delivers groceries bought from Waitrose, part of the John Lewis partnership. The latter has a 30% stake in Ocado.

Last month, Ocado announced a 30% jump in sales during December. The company has yet to make a profit at the pre-tax level. In 2009, it made a pre-tax loss of 32.6m compared with a pre-tax loss of 37.7m in 2008.

Chairman Michael Grade says that Ocado has broken through into its first profit 483,000 on sales on 338.4m.

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